Summer breeze brings in three new rabbis

This summer is seeing a changing of the guard at three local congregations — Reform, Conservative and unaffiliated — as three new rabbis start this month.

At Temple Israel in Alameda, where Rabbi Allen Bennett recently retired after 16 years on the bimah, Rabbi Barnett Brickner has taken over. He started at the 92-year-old Reform synagogue, which has 135 member families, on July 1.

Brickner, who has been a rabbi for 25 years, comes from strong stock. His grandfather, also named Barnett, was a rabbi of national prominence in the 1920s through ’50s and his father, Balfour, was a leading rabbi in the Reform movement for many years. Not only that, but his grandmother Rebecca was a founding member of Hadassah in 1912.

Barnett Brickner

Brickner hit the ground running at Temple Israel. He presided over a bar mitzvah his first weekend on the job, and also rode on the temple float in Alameda’s 4th of July Parade.

“It was a great beginning on the West Coast for the rabbi and his family,” said Cindy Berk, Temple Israel’s president.

Brickner, his wife, Erin, and their son Sam (their three other children are in college) moved to Alameda last month from Columbus, Ohio, where he served as a hospital chaplain at the Ohio State Medical Center for three years. During that time, he also worked part time as a congregational rabbi at Temple Beth Israel-Shaare Zedek in Lima, Ohio, about 100 miles from Columbus.

Born in Washington D.C., Brickner studied political science at New England College in New Hampshire and later worked for New York City, helping the municipal government renovate low-income housing. He was ordained at the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in 1987.

Aderet Drucker

In Walnut Creek, at Conservative-affiliated Congregation B’nai Shalom, recently ordained Rabbi Aderet Drucker is set to take up her post on Monday, July 23.

She will lead about 300 families at the synagogue, which traces its roots to 1948. It has been without a full-time pulpit rabbi since last year, when Rabbi Elon Sunshine departed as senior rabbi.

Drucker graduated in May from the rabbinical school at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, where she was awarded the Gladstein Fellowship in Entrepreneurial Rabbinic Leadership.

While living in White Plains, N.Y., as a rabbinic intern-in-residence for Temple Israel Center for two years, she also traveled to Tallahassee, Fla., where she served as the rabbi at Congregation Shomrei Torah, visiting once a month and during the High Holy Days.

Elisheva Salamo

Drucker is a first-generation American whose parents are both Israeli. She grew up in Los Angeles and said she started considering joining the rabbinate during her freshman year at UCLA, where she graduated with a degree in biological anthropology. She later served as the director of youth programs at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.

At Gan HaLev: The Jewish Congregation of the San Geronimo Valley, Rabbi Elisheva Salamo has become the central Marin County congregation’s first-ever rabbi. She began her job, which is part-time and mostly on weekends, on July 1.

The congregation, founded in 1992 as an independent and unaffiliated group, consists of 50 families and a few dozen others that participate; services and events are held at a community center. It mainly draws people from west Marin and Fairfax.

A San Francisco native, Salamo graduated from Reed College in Portland with a degree in biology, and went on to earn a Ph.D. in biology from Yale University. She was ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1997 and served as rabbi at Congregation Ner Shalom in Cotati for nine years.

Salamo, who wrote Torah commentaries for j. from 2008 to 2011, said her plan is to continue working at her two other part-time jobs, both in Palo Alto, where she lives. She is the older adults program manager at the Oshman Family JCC and a rabbi at Keddem Congregation.